County Commissioners File Ocean DCPC Nomination
By: Michael C. Bailey
Since it was first employed in Falmouth in 1995, the District of Critical Planning Concern (DCPC) planning tool has been used to help towns control development.
Last week the Barnstable County Board of County Commissioners took an unprecedented step in nominating the state waters around Cape Cod as the first-ever Ocean Management Planning DCPC, in doing so placing an immediate and full moratorium on all development sited within the first three miles of ocean as measured from the Cape coastline – approximately 900 square miles of ocean.
The moratorium is in effect until at least Thursday, January 21, 2010 when the full Cape Cod Commission (CCC) will review the nomination. If the nomination is accepted for further consideration, a limited moratorium would then go into effect.
In accordance with the Massachusetts Oceans Management Act of 2008, the moratoriums would not affect any project within the first 1,500 feet of ocean as measured from a given’s town’s municipal boundary.
“An Ocean Management Planning DCPC would allow our municipalities the opportunity for input into defining the appropriate scale and distribution of any renewable energy projects within the waters surrounding Cape Cod,” Paul J. Niedzwiecki, executive director of the CCC said in a press release. “If adopted as a Barnstable County ordinance, this DCPC would allow all Cape towns and the entire Cape community up to one year to have an informed public discussion, facilitated by the Commission, about renewable energy and other activities.”
The Cape Cod Wind Farm project would not be impacted by the DCPC as it is sited for Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound, which is outside the three-mile state zone of jurisdiction.
The CCC is asking anyone with a pending development in the DCPC to notify the Commission no later than Friday, January 8, 2010 of any local development permits, any foreseeable town-level development that should be exempt from the limited moratorium, local bylaws or regulations applicable to development within the proposed DCPC, and any technical studies or management plans that pertain to the DCPC.
DCPCs allow town officials to draft new and often extraordinary zoning regulations for a nominated area, which may be a particular area within the town or the entire community. According to a CCC fact sheet, a DCPC is often nominated for an area in which significant natural, coastal, scientific, and other resources or values of regional, statewide, or national significance are present; that hosts substantial areas of sensitive ecological conditions that render an area unsuitable for development; or in which a major capital public facility or area of public investment exists or has been proposed.
In the case of the Ocean Management Planning DCPC, all three conditions apply.
The nomination was filed to coincide with the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan, which will be promulgated on Thursday, December 31.
The Martha’s Vineyard Commission has similar authority, and it submitted a DCPC nomination earlier this year.
For more information on the Ocean Management Planning DCPC, visit the Cape Cod Commission website.
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